There was a time when a formidable Indian side was often criticised for its inability to handle pressure. They were used to losing finals, and despite all the hard work, they lacked a player with a killer instinct who could take the pressure back to the opposition with a never-say-die attitude. While Sachin Tendulkar has been India’s run-machine for over two decades, his centuries often went in vain as the middle-order and the lower-order failed to cross the finishing line when it mattered the most. The Australians were at their peak and India couldn’t match their habit of delivering under pressure.
But now, India must consider itself extremely fortunate to have someone like Virat Kohli, whose fearless play has made them a driving force in world cricket. The right-hander has made life difficult for bowlers across the world, and his technique is such that someone like Lasith Malinga is made to look like a mediocre bowler when he bowls to Kohli. He has led India to some spectacular chases in the last two years. From Hobart to Sawai Mansigh Stadium, Kohli has been in sublime form and has provided that killer instinct to his side. When he gets going, anything even above 350 isn’t safe for the opponents.
The Delhi batsman in his short career has become one of the world’s best batsmen. Kohli’s body language suggests he is ready to fight till the last ball, and he has become a threat for skippers around the world and has been a delight for the Indian fans, who are proud to have someone like him in the team. He is quick to adapt to any situation and often soaks all the pressure making the job easier for the batsman at the other end, allowing him to play his natural game.
In the second ODI against Australia, even though Rohit Sharma played a magnificent knock to silent his critics, it was Kohli’s innings that made the headlines. The hard work of Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan would have gone in vain had someone else not played a big knock, keeping the required run-rate under control.
Memories came back to haunt us the moment Australia put 359 on the board. A side that had the likes of Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh failed to achieve the target in 2003 World Cup final as they were restricted to just 234 runs. The Aussies would have been extremely confident after they posted a similar score in the second ODI. Nobody, not even the Indian cricket fans, expected the kind of assault Indian batsmen came up with during the historic chase.
The moment Kohli came at the crease, with every boundary and six he hit, the Aussies knew they were up for a major upset as he sent them on a leather hunt. Australia’s stand-in skipper George Bailey accepted that they lost it, the moment Kohli came to the crease. The right-hander gave Australia a taste of their own medicine.
While Tendulkar’s absence is something which is irreplaceable, Kohli has come as a breath of fresh air for Indian cricket. His aggression on and off the field is something which is often criticised, but with time, the 24-year-old is quickly learning to keep himself calm and his reaction after reaching the three-figure mark in the second ODI was extremely pleasing to watch.
India definitely have a match-winner in him. The history books are likely to have his name in most of the records. 16 centuries for a 24-year-old speak volumes about the caliber of the talented youngster.